Happy National Radon Action Month!! Granted, this is not meet with the level of excitement that one might reserve for Christmas or New Years, but it does serve an important function: radon awareness! Why do we feel its important to do radon testing and spread the word about radon gas? Let us count the ways.
A Killer on the Loose!
How would you react if you found out that there was a 1 in 15 chance that there was a killer in your basement? Yikes! Grab the kids and call the police! In reality, the EPA states that there is a potential killer already in your home and its name is “radon”. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and kills 21,000 Americans each year. 1
A Super Brief History of Radon
So what do we know about this culprit? The German chemist Friedrich Ernst Dorn is given credit for discovering radon in 1900. He discovered this new gas while studying radium’s decay chain. Radium had been discovered two years earlier by the famous scientist Marie Curie. Originally named “niton”, it has been known as radon since 1923.
Radon was observed to be a health issue when scientists noted that uranium miners who were exposed to it died of lung cancer at higher rates than people in the general population. The results have been confirmed through experimental animal studies that revealed higher rates of lung cancer with rodents exposed to elevated levels of radon. 2
How does this killer work?
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is part of the radioactive decay chain of uranium. It makes its way through the cracks and crevices in the soil and gets indoors through building foundations. Radon gas emits radiation that can kill living cells. When breathing in this dangerous gas for long periods of time (usually years), we increase the chances of developing lung cancer. There is no clear cut answer as to how many years you would need to be exposed to radon because there are too many variables to consider (ie; health of occupants, radon levels, ventilation, insulation, etc.). However, the sooner you have the property tested and possibly mitigated, the better off you will be in the future.
What can be done?
Ah, that’s where the “Action” part of Radon Action Month comes in. The only way to know for certain is to get your home tested. Remember, radon is odorless and colorless, there is no way that you can use your senses to detect it. There are test kits that you can purchase to see if there is an issue, but it is even better to have a professional radon expert test your home. This is a great time of year to test for radon as it is normally during its peak during these coldest months. To further educate yourself on this, the EPA has an excellent website (www.epa.gov/radon) that explains in layman’s terms what can be done to protect yourself and your family from this pernicious killer.
We do not exchange gifts or invite family and friends over to celebrate National Radon Action Month (at least not yet). However, we can participate during this period by spreading the word and letting people know about this dangerous gas and the importance of getting your home tested.